For the last few years, the 500 has felt like a long sprint race to me. Sure, there might be a twist along the way, but by and large the race played out like a longer version of a race at Milwaukee, with a very small group of front-runners controlling the race and deciding it among themselves, often based on when a caution fell.
Yesterday felt different. As a kid, back when a 500-miler felt impossibly long, the race played out in stages. Someone would be out front early, and then they'd fade and someone else would be in charge leading up to halfway. There would be pit mistakes, there would be strategy decisions, and there would be mechanical failures. It felt a lot more like that than it has in years.
Up until the end, I had no idea who was going to win, but not in a Daytona/Talladega way where the 16th place car could time the draft and win. Clearly the winner was going to come from a group of a half-dozen cars that were strong at the end, but those strong cars weren't necessarily the cars you would have thought at the start of the race would be the contenders at the end. We saw a story play out in multiple acts that brought us to a finale where characters we thought would be supporting cast turned out to be the leads. Nobody picked Sato to be there on lap 200. I sure as hell didn't. Everybody picked Helio to be there. He was mid-pack by then.
And here's the best part: this car has been racy on a road course, on several street courses, and on an oval. They did it. They actually did it. I'm excited for Belle Isle! Yes, you read that correctly! As tough a circuit as that is, given what we've seen so far, there's every chance it's going to be an entertaining race with some passing. And then we go to Texas, to see what this car does on the banked speedway. If you're not excited for the next two weeks of IndyCar racing, well, I don't know what to tell you. Maybe the sport just isn't for you.
Well done to Randy, ICONIC, and IndyCar as a whole. Well done to Dario, to Dixon, and yes, to Sato. Say what you want, but to paraphrase Little Al, apparently Taku DOES know what Indy means, and so does Dario. Did he pinch Sato there? Sure. Because it's the Indianapolis 500, dammit! You do whatever it takes to win that race!
God help me, I LOVE IT!